'Gene editing' gets the green light

British scientists have been given the “go ahead” by fertility regulators to edit genes of newly formed human embryos. This is the first time gene editing at this stage has gone through a proper regulatory system and been approved.

The research aims at studying the earliest stages of human life and will take place at the Francis Crick Institute of London.

Gene editing will take place seven days following fertilization, when the egg has become a blastocyst. Blastocysts contain almost 200-300 cells and in turn specialize after fertilization, with some eggs forming the placenta, others forming the skin and eventually the rest of the body.

The gene editing will be led by Dr. Kathy Niakan, who has spent a decade studying and researching human development. Niakan, as quoted by the BBC, stated that the research should help the scientific community as a whole to understand which genes play the essential role of the development of a healthy baby.

This is especially important because infertilities and miscarriages are very common, but not fully understood.

Dr. David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, said that the research will help refine the techniques for creating genetically modified (GM) babies and many of the government’s scientific advisers have expressed their approval.

The regulator of gene editing, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has given its approval and the experiments could start in the next few months.

Source: BBC News

Cover credit: BBC News